verb cir·cum·vent \ ˌsər-kᵊm-ˈvent \
|Updated on: 20 Aug 2018

Definition of circumvent

circumvented; circumventing; circumvents
1 : to manage to get around especially by ingenuity or stratagem
  • the setup circumvented the red tape
  • —Lynne McTaggart
  • circumvent a problem
2 a : to hem in
  • Circumvented by the enemy, he had to surrender.
b : to make a circuit around
  • the river circumvented


play \-ˈven(t)-shən\ noun

circumvent was our Word of the Day on 02/05/2012. Hear the podcast!

Examples of circumvent in a Sentence

  1. Los Angeles was the beachhead for the sushi invasion, attracting many Japanese chefs eager to make their fortunes and to circumvent the grueling 10-year apprenticeship required in their homeland. —Jay McInerneyNew York Times Book Review10 June 2007
  2. … Rondon and Lyra paddled to the right side, where they found a channel that circumvented the worst part of the rapids. —Candice MillardThe River of Doubt2005
  3. His appreciation of this finer side of life is circumvented by a cynicism that he tells me is common to Eastern Europeans. —Lynne TillmanMotion Sickness1991
  4. The thirty-six-hour workweek established by the garment-industry code was circumvented by having the workers punch out at five P.M., leave by the back door (their usual entrance), then return by the front door and work until eleven P.M. without punching the clock. —Melissa HieldSpeaking For Ourselves(1977) 1984
  5. We circumvented the problem by using a different program.

  6. He found a way to circumvent the law.

Recent Examples of circumvent from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'circumvent.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

The Circular History of circumvent

If you’ve ever felt as if someone were circling around the rules, you have an idea of the origins of "circumvent" - it derives from the Latin circum, meaning "circle," and "ventus," the past participle of the Latin verb venire, meaning "to come." The earliest uses of "circumvent" referred to a tactic of hunting or warfare in which the quarry or enemy was encircled and captured. Today, however, "circumvent" more often suggests avoidance than entrapment; it typically means to "get around" someone or something, as in our example sentences.

Origin and Etymology of circumvent

Latin circumventus, past participle of circumvenire, from circum- + venire to come — more at come

CIRCUMVENT Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of circumvent for English Language Learners

  • : to avoid being stopped by (something, such as a law or rule) : to get around (something) in a clever and sometimes dishonest way

CIRCUMVENT Defined for Kids


verb cir·cum·vent \ ˌsər-kəm-ˈvent \

Definition of circumvent for Students

circumvented; circumventing
: to avoid the force or effect of by cleverness
  • They tried to circumvent the rules.

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up circumvent? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!


resembling the blue of the sky

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Difficult Spelling Words Quiz

  • alphabet-pasta-spelling-help
  • Which is the correct spelling?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!